tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 15, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm PDT
tavis: good evening. tonight, a conversation with a two-time oscar nominee ethan hawke. he is up this month with a new project called a " sinister." he and his partner working on the next installment on there! feliz "before sunrise, before sunset." >> there is a saying that dr. king said that there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger and we have a lot of work to do. wal-mart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can hunger.ut unde
>> and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: pleased to welcome ethan hawke to this program can he is out this month with a new film called "sinister." i was flattered and floor when i got a call from him to play a small part in this film. frankly, not too much of an acting stretch. i get to play myself. [laughter] here now are some scenes. >> you have to be kidding me.
bar-b-q's. that is the family who live here. you think these are serial murders? >> i don't know. the first one dates back to 1960's. >> the only link to these cases is this symbol. >> it is associated with the pagan jd pin he consumes the souls of human children. >> i have never ban on a spit before. >> early christians believe that he lived in the images themselves and that they were date wav -- they were gateways into his realm. >> i do not even to scary movies.
i don't go see them. [laughter] i don't watch them on television at my house. but i am such a huge ethan hawk fan. when you and scott, the director, reached out, i would not turn down an opportunity to play myself. but i do not do for. >> this is the first, have never been interviewed on a national television show by one of my co- stars. [laughter] but they really should show the clip of you and i working together. >tavis: do you have the clip? let's play it. >> we need to see it. >> when i started this particular case, i would stumble on the couple of things that some might overlook. tavis: you did stumble on things that the cops had overlooked. >> let me say that there are a lot of good police officers out there and i do not want to in any way disparate what they do. in police work, getting something wrong means ruining people's lives.
tavis: ultimately, what feels better? seeing justice done or seeing your book, ky blood, number one on the new york times best- seller list? >> the justice without question. and i would rather cut my hands off than write a book for fame or money. tavis: what do you think is better -- >> would you think is better in that scene? [laughter] my hair or your acting? tavis: i will let you explain that. you're having a flashback. >> one of the things i like about the movie is that it is about a guy who is contrary crisis where he feels like his best days are behind. he is a longing for one more second in the spotlight and to feel the heat. so he is getting drunk late at night watching when he used to be a big shot in doing interviews. i had to sport a different hairstyle. [laughter]
it was not a very effective choice, i don't think. tavis: so this movie is an interesting balance. i got a chance to read the script myself. it is an interesting balance between true crime drama and horror. it falls into both. does that make sense? >> yes, it is in a bit of both. the movie is i a little bit of a thriller and a flat out scary movie. i never made one of these movies. like you, i find life scary enough. i am terrified to get out of bed in the morning. [laughter] this director told me that one of the great things about horror movies is that it gives you this immense feeling of gratitude when they are over. [laughter] as bad as your day is, has annoying as your wife is, she is not the ghoul being a child from hell. [laughter]
people love these things. you want to make a comedy, you wanted to be funny. if you make a scary movie, the damn thing better be scary. i wanted to make one that is more psychological. i do like the ones that have the, you know, everybody getting their heads chopped off. tavis: y ruel a dies in this point of your career? >> just to do something -- wine rolled the dice -- why roll the dice at this point in your career? >> just to do something different. i admire people who can turn themselves into different people. vincent and offer no -- vincent in this film and he can do that. i tried to put myself in different kinds of movies and that suddenly changes my work.
by the time my obituary is written, and wanted to be a great western and a great comedy -- you know, i love movies. it is as simple as that. tavis: you started when you're just a kid and there are so many people who don't survive that process. a lot of child actors to make it and a whole lot who don't. how did you make it into the i need it category? >> i asked myself that a lot. i did my first movie with river phoenix. for some reason, i got to thinking about river the other day. an average did this before, but this is the world we live in nearby googled him. because we did a movie together, there were some pictures of me in there, too, but the pictures of me, i was 35 and 37 and 40. all of his never get past 23 or
24. it was this amazing sadness about all of the things he did i get to see. i remember when he passed away thinking this will sound awful, but there is a certain, when you're young, it is better to burn out than it away. oh, man, i had a lot of respect for him. i thought he was a great artist. there was a sense of, wow, man, this is what legends are made of. and now that is complete idiocy. the fact that he did not get to have children or broke with his family for the work he could be doing, the good he would be doing in the world -- acting, celebrity, fame, all of this stuff, you do this for a living. people sit in this chair to channel the zeitgeist pair. it makes a lot of people
brilliant. it's a lot of people know how to channel their energy into something amazing. other people, it can meet you insane. if you are young and you don't know who your, that is the trouble with child acting. the only thing i can point to for why i survived is that i have a family who loves me and never wanted any money from me. it sounds like a simple little thing, but it is a huge thing. he sees some people in sports and acting -- the people around them -- my family, all the different things -- there are a lot of good people and they always let me be me and left me alone appeared i see that a lot of people's family don't do that to them. and that is confusing. if i could point to one thing,
now. the thing i wish for her is not love, fame, money or anything like that is one great best friend. if you have somebody who has your back, you will be all right. tavis: you said so many things. i want to go back. i love it. it is a great opportunity for a host and not have to work so hard because you have a lot you want to say and that is good. speaking of best friends, as you recall, my best friend was with us, cornell west. >> how can i forget? tavis: i told them, i'm go hawke. i am scared out of my mind. will you please come in with me and call me down+++we came in on but checkoff. i had more fun listening to you guys talk and doing the scene. >> that guy is one of the major lions on the planet.
i think that is a ferocious intellect. i admire him a lot. i am doing it chekhov play right now. we're doing even off in new york. -- we're doing i've enouivanoffw york. >> i will be there on november 3. tavis: what is fascinating for me about your story, about your life and your expression of why you think he survived as a child actor, is that he started in a very different place than some people. both of your parents were teenagers. you were born to teenage parents. we talk the last time that your mom to keep to haiti because she wanted you to understand poverty and the other side of privilege when you're just a kid. by solo that about your mom, that she exposed due to that -- i still love that about your mom, this exposed you to that. but you were born to teenage parents. nowadays, there is no guarantee that you will not make it. but both your parents were teenagers. that is a step which ago. >> especially now, as a parent, i am 41 years old and i feel that burden of that
responsibility of being a parent. it is a lot of weight. it is hard enough to get up in the morning for yourself. pickoffs but to get up then tried -- but to try to get up and try to create a world where the young people can thrive. adversity builds character. you hate to hear it, but it is true. my mother, she works now in eastern europe. she has dedicated her life -- her grandfather really worked hard for civil rights in texas when she was growing up. he fought the plan will heart out there. so when my mother was -- he fought the klan out their real hard. so when my mother was in europe, she fought for the gypsies.
for life. that is why she took me to haiti. she believes very much in the flag of equality in all things. and cornell west is her great hero. tavis: so you mentioned your daughter maya who is now 14. who is an artist in her own right. so it is not just navigating being a parent. your a show-biz guy who has a daughter who is already in show biz. how're you navigating that? and you perform with her. i saw that thing on youtube. >> what do you do with the kid? she said that whole thing up. kids are not like little puppies that you can control and have them do everything. she writes songs and she sings songs and she believes and herself. i was doing explores. i am not in the position to tell her she cannot be an artist. i am in a position to tell her that i do know a little something about how to have a meaningful life in the arts.
and if you covet fame, if you cover all of the superficial accolades, you will be miserable. you'll never get enough praise. if you covet contributing something substantive, to movies, music, literature. if you want to be a part of that dialogue, then you won't be unhappy. you have a great life. that is what i feel my job is to her, to teacher. -- to teach her. with the world is not full of is how can you be the 75-year-old woman that you want to be? what is the road to being that 82-year-old -- if it is acting, how do you get to be morgan freeman if you want to be an actor? how do you get to be vanessa redgrave? how deep it mean a simone,
whoever, the great artists? you use them as a north star. you may follow short, but it is better than trying to get one over on your neighbor. tavis: you mentioned some names. who have you used as your north star in your career? >> a lot of people. right now, at the aim that, i keep looking and thinking who keeps growing. you can i keep wanting to be 20 years old. everybody knows that. but what is the next room? how it -- instead of trying to be one of more be like a character in the movie is trying to chase his glory days when he was hit and hot, how can i get into the next room where i actually have something to offer? i know i can be a better actor. i know i can be a better artist? you look at acting in their some obvious examples. christopher plummer when the oscar last year appeare.
he is more of my thinking. he wrote a great book. he was in theater. there are too many to mention. jeff bridges is a great model. i like guys who started really young. it is a peculiar problem. jeff bridges had that movie, "the best picture show," when he was 19. i was lucky to make it to 30. and now i am in my 40's. how do i have something interesting to say when i'm 50? tavis: the trick to me is how you navigate past what some may see as the zenith of your work. it doesn't get much better than "dead poets society." so how do you navigate past to that? >> it is the burden of early success.
i have friends who have won the oscar. i know people who have done that kind of thing. i know it is tough for denzel. what happens when you get something you have been working for? how do you then -- because then you have to ask yourself a much deeper question, which is why do i do what i do? i do not do it to get that. you know that is kind of -- is made of tin, right? so what are you doing it for? the answer to that question might take you somewhere. but i don't know. tavis: since you mentioned denzel, how does it feel to see somebody who you are practically in every scene with -- i know you saw the fact that he won, but there is no denzel in a movie without ethan hawke. it is collaborative. you guys, has partners in that
film, he is playing off of you and you are playing off of him. >> you do not win this thing's for one movie. that one deserved -- that i deserved to win for that movie and others. that is what you are in it for. i know, somebody has to win mvp. eli manning winds mvp and if those guys to make that catch, he doesn't win mvp. these prices are a game and you have to roll with the good and roll with the bad. but that whole experience, it is fun watching dennis l.'s whole career. i remember watching him in "cry freedom," and he does it the way -- he is a great leader in that way. he did of " julius caesar" at lincoln center, and he is always
challenging himself and putting himself in the position to make it hard. he could sit on his ass. tavis: what have you learned about the choices? denzel and i have talked about this for many years. so much of his success is about making the right choices, turning down the right stuff. >> that is what they don't teach and theater school. tavis: what is your take on that? >> the answers to these questions are so cliche. 2 thine own self be true. it really is. i remember some guys in the naacp giving him hell about thinking that he should not play such a negative character. and remember him saying and i was thinking the same thing -- way, no one is telling gene hackman he cannot play a bad guy. i want to be a great artist. you don't become a leader by following. in the same way, for me, i try
to put myself in situation you know, like doing ivanoff right now, these plays are so much more work and doing a movie. it is just a massive workload. and the reward is completely in the doing. nobody will pay in million dollars to do that. but i know it makes me better hand when people want me to act in some movie, the reason why i feel capable to do a good job and i have the answer to how i can be on your show when i am 50 or 60 years old is that i can keep putting myself in situations that will make life difficult for me. tavis: or keep giving me parts in your movie. [laughter] >> so i will just be on your show. i don't think i will be on any other show. [laughter] tavis: we talk a number of times about this. why anton chekhov for you? >> it has been a hundred years
and he is a great humanist. it is kind of fascinating. everybody right now, it you are a parent, people always as, you have kids around the internet and all the stuff -- the experience of being a human being is the same as it always has been. we ask all the serious questions. why are we born? when will we die? what will we do with art, this planet? it is the same whether you are riding a horse and carriage or popping your ipod. checkoff saudi into the heart of people. what i like -- chekhov sought deep into the heart of people. he puts male writers to shame. he does not talk down to anyone, whether it is the servants in the house or the rich landowner or what ever it is. he really has this amazing god's
pov of humanity that is really moving. the trouble is that it is really difficult to do well. most chekhov plays are like a nap.ly expensive kna [laughter] it is hard to do well here every time and do shakespeare, to, i think i can make it as fun for the audience as it is for me. tavis: but you keep challenging yourself to do it. >> if you can do that well, then doing some stupid movie where you -- the russians will building or the building has been a blow! [laughter] tavis: i could do this for hours. i want to close with something you said earlier in this conversation. you said it and never been a kind of laughed. i think there was some seriousness in the comment, which is that, back to
"sinister," the world is scary enough that you do not need to create doing horror movies every week. we're headed toward a major election and a lot of people are scared about where this country is headed. your thoughts? >> you know, my thoughts are pretty simplistic. i think that our president is cut from an older fabric than most people, you know? i think he is a major league human being and i am really proud of his presidency. one of the things that drives me crazy is -- i grew up in a left wing household. one thing that drives me crazy about the left wing is how hard we are on ourselves. my brother is very right wing, you know. man, he is a loyal. [laughter] and as lefties, hey, i did not
like how you did that on wednesday. you're supposed to be a vegetarian. i'd like you. [laughter] i feel like an absolute clarity from my own children nothing point of view. this is a difficult time. we are living in thrilling and scary times. and the world is changing so much in recent years with communication and everything. and i get to travel the world and get to see the world. and i think this guy is in a position, as much as anybody, to lead as to where we want to go. i think it would be a shame to not let him finish his journey and see if i am right or wrong. for me, it is really clear. but each person's heart is their own and that is the great thing about living in this country. tavis: now go see a " sinister."
>> just think about how really relieved you will be when it's over. [laughter] tavis: i will see you november 3. i will be there. that is our show for tonight. until next time. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: join me next time with john heileman on the state of the presidential race three weeks before election day. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king said that there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing.